Increased Cultural Tolerance of Abortion
In many countries cultural tolerance of abortion is increasing despite the historical opposition of several organized religions. At this point it might be well to review the attitudes on abortion of major world religions.
Judaism. According to Guttmacher (97) "unequivocal moral and legal antipathy to abortion originated with the Hebrews." He also indicated that this attitude was inherited unmodified by Christianity.
In a recent article Rabbi Jakobovits (98) presents a relatively more liberal view of the Orthodox Jewish position on abortion. According to Jakobovits, abortion is not equated with murder, and the Talmud permits abortion when the life of the mother is at stake; however, he states that later rabbinical writings clearly forbid abortion on "humanitarian" and eugenic indications.
The practice of induced abortion among Jewish women is more liberal than can be presumed from the official position of Judaism. Hospital studies in the United States have shown a higher abortion rate among Jewish women than among Protestants and Catholics (99). A study in Israel (100) indicated that the national average of abortions per 1,000 live births for 1952-53 was 150(100,101).
Roman Catholicism. It is a common belief that the Roman Catholic Church categorically condemns abortion. History, however, will attest that there has been dissension on the issue. Tertullian, the powerful Roman theologian circa A.D. 240, classified deliberate abortion as murder; St. Augustine echoed the same sentiment 300 years later. However, induced abortion before animation of the fetus was not condemned by all of the early Church fathers. The critical point has always been the indeterminancy of when during gestation "the infusion of the soul" occurs (102), after which stage the unbaptized child cannot enter heaven.
Today some of the more liberal clergy, following Thomas Aquinas in this respect, are upholding the theory of delayed animation, but this theory is yet to be accepted by the central hierarchy of the Church (103, 104).
Available data illustrate the difference between the belief system and actual practice. For example, Table 14 provides a comparison of attitudes toward family planning by religious affiliation in the United States and Australia.
Abortion is a method of limiting family size in allegedly Catholic countries. Table 15 presents a study from Mexico.
The outcome of 2,617 pregnancies during 1962-63 in the predominantly Catholic community of Quinta Normal, Chile, were studied (23). The induced abortion rate was 23.4 percent among Catholics, 13.8 percent among "others," and 27.2 percent among those listing no religion. Hivtchinson pro-